Woman arrested by police after TSA catches her with a handgun in her coat pocket at a Philadelphia International Airport

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PHILADELPHIA—A North Carolina woman was arrested by police after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers detected a handgun inside her coat pocket at a Philadelphia International Airport security checkpoint on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

“It’s the busy holiday travel period and it’s no time to be toting a gun to the airport in your coat,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “If you own a firearm, you really need to take an extra moment or two to think about where your gun is before you head to the airport. It should definitely not be slipped into your coat pocket.”

When TSA officers spotted the gun in the security checkpoint X-ray machine, they alerted Philadelphia Police, who confiscated the weapon and arrested the woman, who also faces a stiff federal financial civil penalty for carrying her gun to a TSA security checkpoint.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter. Firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck®, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

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When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.

TSA Firearms Caught at Philadelphia International Airport checkpoints, 2017 to 2021

Year2017201820192020* 2021* (As of 12/21/21)
Guns caught3525202638

*Significantly fewer passengers than previous years due to the pandemic.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The result was that twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019.  Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83 percent were loaded.